Western society is becoming increasingly secular as religion disappears from the public sphere. This developing identification has created a void as people move away from the traditional, established symbols and maps of meaning. People are still finding and inventing systems to fulfill their existential questioning, increasingly in areas that are traditionally seen as secular. Popular culture and contemporary subcultures are being utilized not just as art, entertainment and community but as religious expression. A prime example of this ‘secular religioning’ can be found in the practice and subculture of BDSM – the intentional, consensual participation in the play of pain, power and sex. The intersection of these primary forces in the human experience present in BDSM makes the practice a fertile ground for spiritual expression. The BDSM subculture can be analyzed as a ‘secular religion’ by looking at the psychology of pain and power, religious ways of hurting, and BDSM as ritual.

The popularity of traditional religions are on the decline1 as Western society strives towards secularism. People are increasingly identifying as non-religious as religion disappears from the public sphere, but this does not mean that the drives and needs that religion addresses have declined. People may be moving away from particular symbols and maps of meaning but they are still finding and inventing systems to fulfil their existential questioning, increasingly in areas that are traditionally seen as secular. One prime example of this ‘secular religioning’ can be found in the practice and subculture of BDSM.

BDSM is the umbrella term used to describe the consensual participation in Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, and Sadism/Masochism (most kinks fall under this umbrella). It is intentionally participating in the play of pain, power and (often) sex. The focus on the intersection of these powerful, primal forces in the human experience makes BDSM a fertile ground for spiritual expression. BDSM can be analyzed as a ‘secular religion’ by looking at the psychology of pain and power, religious ways of hurting, and BDSM as ritual.

Read the Full Article Here: INQUIRIES: Pain and Power: BDSM as Spiritual Expression by Alicia Charles D’Avalon